The college I first attended lay almost literally in the middle of a cornfield. Surrounded on all sides by a dairy farm owned by the college, buildings were sparse and unless you had a car, you made your entertainment by smoking white out, drinking whatever you could get an older student to buy you, and hiking out into the unmapped woods adjacent to the property.
While I did partake of the chemical entertainments from time to time, I found them limiting, and I had a GPA worth protecting. So for major portions of my time, I hiked out into the woods. At first I spent most of my time on an island in the middle of a pond that used to be a baseball field. Then the bridge “broke” that year, and administration saw fit not to fix it – most likely, a young couple got caught having sex, and the older adults of the time put in a great deal of effort in preventing sex among the younger adults, without thinking that they in fact were the disturbed ones for doing so.
So I began exploring the other side of the woods, closer to the boys’ dormitory, and extending out to the peculiar township that, despite being walking distance from the college, none of the students ever really visited.
It had to be March or April. It was a Friday night, and since no one invited me to anything, I set out on my own into the woods. A thunderstorm came up suddenly, but I kept walking.
Somewhere between the first patter and the raging downpour, I started to see them. White robed hoods peeking at me from behind the trees. At first I attributed it to my overactive imagination: the lack of stimulation from staying at such an isolated college had led me on some wild fantasies, and it seemed only a matter of time before they began appearing as though outside my head.
Perhaps it was one of the Greek groups on campus playing a joke, or doing one of their strange little rituals. I was never crazy about the concept of fraternities and sororities, but I’d come to appreciate the members as individuals, and so I walked toward one of the trees where I saw a robe. I could ask what was going on, ascertain I wasn’t intruding on some sacred tradition.
A robed figure stepped out from the tree toward me, and I looked inside the hood – and saw nothing. Not an outline, nothing – it was just a robe, moving like it had a body in it.
I turned around and ran. Thunder rolled under my feet, the heavens opened their downpour, and I ran my ass back to my dorm.
Somehow, however, I found myself running progressively deeper into the woods, and seeing those robed figures peeking out at me from the trees.
I had gotten lost just enough on that part of the property to have a favorite stump, a place by the stream where I would rest before getting my bearings. I found the stump – and I was coming at it from the opposite side of the stream. I know I did not cross that stream on the way into the woods.
I found my way back, those hooded things peeking out at me along the way. If it was a frat game, I just didn’t want to know.